ABC says only Provinces can sign onto Covenant

The Living Church reports that Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the Anglican Covenant can only be signed at the Provincial level.

In answer to an inquiry from the Bishop of Central Florida, the Rt. Rev. John Howe, the Archbishop said that while an “endorsement” by a diocese or parish is possible, “as a matter of constitutional fact, the [Anglican Consultative Council] can only offer the covenant for ‘adoption’ to its own constituent bodies (the provinces).”

The archbishop added that “I see no objection to a diocese resolving less formally on an ‘endorsement’ of the covenant.” Such an action would not have an “institutional effect” but “would be a clear declaration of intent to live within the agreed terms of the Communion’s life and so would undoubtedly positively affect a diocese’s pastoral and sacramental relations” with the wider communion, he said.

The September 28, 2009 letter clarifies that it will be the Anglican Consultative Council that will offer the final version of the Covenant to the Provinces and receive their responses.

Mark Harris says that this means that the members of the Communion can take their time reviewing the document and the rush to endorse the Covenant as it now stands is “a ruse” but now signing on to a Covenant that is part and parcel of the ACC and the instruments of Communion works against the GAFCON goal of Canterbury-free Anglicanism.

The mad rush to sign on is a ruse, in order to make a crisis out of a process and short-circuit the provincial system. This is a get out the vote effort, with the hope that a majority of the dioceses in the Anglican Communion will go for the Covenant, and the winners will be the GAFCON Provinces and their dioceses. Of course the backfire is that in going for the Covenant dioceses are also going for the Instruments of Communion, chief among them being the Archbishop of Canterbury. If dioceses in the GAFCON crowd vote yes on the Anglican Covenant, the possibility of a Communion without the ABC as a focus of unity disappears.

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  1. Of course, the Archbishop is merely atoning for the last letter he is known to have sent Bishop Howe, which gave the militant traditionalists the demented idea that dioceses could act independently of their provinces in the first place.

    Lionel Deimel

  2. John B. Chilton

    In his post General Convention reflection, Rowan Williams wrote, “But in the current context, the question is becoming more sharply defined of whether, if a province declines such an invitation, any elements within it will be free (granted the explicit provision that the Covenant does not purport to alter the Constitution or internal polity of any province) to adopt the Covenant as a sign of their wish to act in a certain level of mutuality with other parts of the Communion. It is important that there should be a clear answer to this question.”

    Has he now provided a clear answer? Or is his latest to Howe merely a statement about the meaning of a diocese signing while a province has neither accepted or declined but instead is in the process of deciding? Or in his reflections did he never mean to be saying that when a diocese endorses the covenant it would have ‘institutional effect.’ What is institutional effect anyway?

  3. Paul Woodrum

    Institutional effect is the piling up of too many unintended consequences that may lead to one losing one’s own authority.

  4. The Living Church has now revised its article and changed the headline to read

    Archbishop Says Central Florida Act a Positive Step.

  5. John B. Chilton

    For what it’s worth, Living Church has not changed the hyperlink which still says,

    Besides the change in headline it also says the article has been updated. Just how, I don’t know. Christopher Wells says,

    “For what it’s worth, TLC has posted an updated version of the story which corrects the impression that the Archbishop of Canterbury has said anything new with respect to the formal statement of “constitutional fact” regarding the ACC’s internal process at present.” ( )

    I’ve no reason to doubt Wells. Which returns me to my comment above about what Rowan meant in the post GC reflection.

    Amusingly, the unofficial Church of England Newspaper head for Conger’s story (he wrote the one for TLC, too) is “Dioceses ‘can adopt Covenant,’ says Archbishop of Canterbury: CEN 10.01.09”. Which is amusing b/c in the body of the article it there’s the crucial word “only” omitted from CEN’s headline: “Dr Williams responded that “as a matter of constitutional fact, the ACC can only offer the Covenant for ‘adoption’ to its own constituent bodies, (the provinces).””

  6. The practice of changing headlines online seems to be a strange practice, … wouldn’t it be more appropriate to post a new article, with a new headline, noting corrections, but leaving up the previous article with headline?

    It reminds me not a little of the “Commandments” in Animal Farm that are changed and adapted (to their benefit) without the knowledge of the other animals … “All Animals are Equal” becomes “All Animals are Equal, but some Animals are more Equal than Others”…


    Peter M. Carey+

  7. John B. Chilton

    On changing headlines, it happens. Mea culpa. But not maxima — sometimes the story evolves.

  8. But in this case, John, the story has not evolved. The RW to JH letter on which the story is based remains unaltered. What has changed is the interpretation given to it.

  9. The original story didn’t say what the Anglican right needed it to say. So it was clumsily revised.

  10. Paul Woodrum

    Good grief! Everybody from credit card issuers to the Church Pension Group claims the right to ‘amend, terminate, or modify terms at any time, without notice and for any reason’ (From CPG documents.) Why should authors and editors be bound by the hobgoblins of transparency and consistency?

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